Vampire Seductions

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Vampire Seductions

Post  Barrister on Thu Dec 08, 2011 3:16 am

Vampire seductions: What's it all about?
December 7, 2011 by Thomas Raphael-Nakos

The number one box office success at movie theaters across the country for the last several weeks was 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1.' For those who do not know, it is the first part of Stephenie Meyers’ fourth novel in her 'The Twilight Saga,' a story about the marriage of Bella Swan, a young human woman, to Edward Cullen, a vampire. Edward, though appearing to be just 17 when he and Bella met, is actually a vampire-man over 100 years old.

Meyers’ Twilight series is just one of the many fascinations our culture has with vampires. The modern popularity of the subject begins, perhaps, with Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, beginning with her first novel in the series, 'Interview with the Vampire' in 1976. Rice’s vampire novels focus on a very dark character in the person of Lestat de Lioncourt. He harkens back to an evil revealed in Bram Stokers’ Dracula.

More recently Meyers’ Twilight vampires are less dark, less threatening and more amenable to co-existing with human beings. This is also true of HBO’s very successful 'True Blood' series. Vampires, in the current craze, desire to be accepted by us rather than threatening to suck the force of life out of us. Given the fact vampires still exist in the shadow side of our imaginations, why do they enthrall us so? What is it in us that we wish to know in the knowing of the undead?

Numerous commentaries have attempted to explain the popularity of vampire-centered entertainment. Some suggest that it is “all about the sex,” especially a sexuality that is flavored with the spice of a little S&M. The fang piercing of the neck is the hickey taken to its logical conclusion.

Then there is the manifestation of erotic surrender to the ultimate “bad boy.” There is the lust that leads to erotic pain. With Dracula of old, the eroticism was brutally abusive. But in our present day expressions, the fantasy has been somewhat domesticated with the potential cruelty hidden in the shadows.

Many suggest vampire stories and characters are metaphors. They compensate for religious experiences no longer available in our secular, modern world. The ingestion of blood turns the Christian experience of Holy Communion upside down. Whereas in the Mass or in Communion, mortals taste immortality in the Blood of Christ. With the immortal vampires, the undead taste mortality in the blood of their human victims. In a world in which faith in God no longer exists for many, something akin to faith is experienced in the fascination with vampire-based entertainment.

Along with sex and religious metaphors, there is the view the vampire stories grapple with issues with which society in general struggles.For instance, in HBO’s True Blood the effort to accept vampires into society coincides with the conflict over full acceptance of homosexuals. In the Twilight Saga, the conflict faced by Edward and Bella is similar to that of Romeo and Juliet. The conflictual love of these two protagonists exemplifies the conflicts of class and race in our world. The current vampire books, movies and TV programs are all expressions our real life struggles.

Another explanation comes from Rebecca Housel, a feminist poet and commentator on popular culture. In a recent interview with Tom Morris of the Huffington Post, Housel posits the phenomenon of vampire mania is because we live in a world of constant rapid change.

“Buddhists recommend accepting impermanence in life to get closer to enlightenment. But when the simulacra or artificial realities of pop culture get involved -- we might begin to romanticize our own realities in a delusional way," Housel said. "Suddenly, nothing is impermanent when you're an immortal vampire, especially a vampire from today's pop culture. Maybe it becomes easier to excuse violent behavior. Maybe the idea of dying in order to live doesn't sound so crazy anymore....”

Impermanence is the reality of life. Life is ever-changing and evolving. In today’s world, the rate of change is dizzying. Rather than embracing the changes to find peace in its midst, many search for something permanent and solid onto which to anchor their lives. They want a “solid rock” where they can take a stand.

Many who remain religious turn to their faith for such solidness. But a solid rigid religion can be dangerous. Often it takes the form of fundamentalism. So from the Christian Right in America, to Islamists in the Middle East and the Ultra Orthodox Jews in Israel, people of faith run from the impermanent nature of life and grasp on to a life-negating form of religious belief.

In the secular world, the desire for permanence is often expressed in the form of popular entertainment. The seduction of the vampire offers a way out of the instability of a world that constantly changes. It is a way to experience some sense of permanence, if only on the unconscious level of fantasy. In the vampire books, movies and TV series people are able to play at permanence even if the play is playing at being dead.

So what is it in us that we wish to know in the knowing of the undead? What dark side of ourselves do we, perhaps, safely face by being enthralled with vampires?

It’s more than simply facing our sexuality, or the desire for meaningful religious experiences. It is more than working out the conflicts of our social life. It is even more than resolving the issue of life’s impermanent nature.

If vampires are still really monsters at their core, even with our current crop of misunderstood nice-guy vampires, then our enthrallment is in facing what is monstrous in us.

The real question is whether our fascination with the monsters “out there” helps us transform the monster within? And, we should ask, where is the fine line between the transformation of our monstrosity and the giving our selves over to monstrous living? One pertinent example of this question is embedded in our war on terror. Terrorism is a monstrosity. In fighting terrorism, do we succumb to monstrous behavior? Do we become the monsters we fight?

Our culture’s fascination with vampires is informative. It reveals much about who we are and what we can become, for better or worse. And, do we, as individuals or as a society, desire to examine our lives?

Socrates said it long ago: “The unexamined life is a life not worth living.” If we refuse to take a close look at who we are and what we do, we may be just as dead as the undead heroes of our culture’s fantasy life.


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Join date : 2011-10-21
Age : 44
Location : London, England

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Re: Vampire Seductions

Post  Guest on Thu Dec 08, 2011 4:51 am

Very good and I have to agree with the last parts of it. We all know how TB is a microcosim of what happens in our society as a whole. Its a fascinating look in that we are often too afraid to see ourselves in.

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